Tag Archives: Jim Towers

Jota. I love you. But please don’t join Fulham.

29 Aug

Jota – probably the most talented player to pull on the red and white of Brentford in recent times and now we’re all sweating on whether we’ve seen him play for the last time. Whilst the West Ham rumours have gone deathly quiet, the stories of bids from Middlesbrough hang around like a bad smell whilst Fulham of all clubs have now entered the mix. Yes, Fulham.

Oh, and there’s also one now doing the rounds about Harry Redknapp looking to take Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. Yes, we’re now well into international break and whilst on pitch most people are concentrating on the World Cup qualifiers between Belgium – Gibraltar and Malta – England, back in TW8 that accursed window can’t ‘slam shut’(tm) quickly enough.

Jota team Rotherham

We feel the same way too

Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Andy Sinton, DJ Cambell, Nicky Forster, Adam Forshaw, Andre Gray, Moses Adubajo, Sam Saunders to name but a few. The amount of players that we just ‘couldn’t sell’ who we have then sold is legion. It is part of life supporting Brentford.

We know the club’s direction is sustainable football within FFP regulations. Pretty much the rest of the Championship can pay silly money for players. We can’t and won’t. That’s not me crying; its just a fact of life. The club have made no secret of trying to build a team in a certain style and to move players on should those big value offers come in. To date, we’ve had three top ten Championship finishes doing this.

And now our resolve is being tested once more with Jota and long serving former captain Harlee Dean both coming under intense scrutiny. Both players could walk out of Griffin Park on a free transfer at the end of the season. We could sell them now for a combined total of over £10million if rumoured valuations are met. Can we afford to turn that down, even it it does mean joining the likes of Jake Bidwell and David ‘agent’ Button in moving down the road to near neighbours?

Being realistic, of all three names Fulham look the most likely. On paper. West Ham are soon to be a Championship club so why move now to join a sinking ship, only to end up back where you started? The obvious money factor aside. But even then, how much action would he see in a squad that already has 9 midfielders registered with the Premier League?

Middlesbrough can go spin if their offers are to be believed. Manager Dean Smith has already gone on record as noting “There are people courting Jota and we’ve had two bids that haven’t met the valuation of the football club and, until they do, he remains a Brentford footballer.” This, after stories of a £4.5 million bid for the player came in from Boro’. Add another three and then I’d imagine the club would be prepared to talk.

Which leaves Fulham. Well, the good news being that so far nothing has happened. It’s just a story. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest a story put out there just to drive up bids from potential suitors. Although, at the end of the day (Clive) I know nothing and have no knowledge – inside or otherwise. This is merely wishful thinking based on the desire to not see our prize asset end up at the Cottage.

Could I be uber-cynical as to suggest this may even be a spoonful of sugar to help soften the blow of any eventual sale? “Hey, he’s gone folks. But at least it’s not to Fulham”. Would that even happen? Are the media that clever? Again, I don’t know. But the reaction to the Fulham story has got several fans up in arms with vows to throw away their season tickets and never come to Griffin Park again being widely published.

One tweet from the team behind fan group ‘Thorne In The Side’ shows the feeling about this potential move. Extreme? Or showing the depth of emotion amongst supporters? It notes: I’d rather Jota join ISIS than Fulham. @BrentfordFC board must NOT let this happen. There are certain lines that our club must NOT cross.

Jota tweets

This is the battle the club are up against. And it is one that can’t end with all parties happy. IF it came to it, would they let this level off feeling affect their judgement? Unlikely. Money talks and we’ve sold plenty of big names in the past. We’ve sold to our ‘nearest and dearest’ in the past (just look back all the way to Jim Towers and George Francis).

Equally, we just have no choice in the matter IF the player had decided his future is now elsewhere. If his head has been turned by mega bucks. When the alternate is to hang on to a footballer whose heart may not be in it before ultimately losing out on what would be 10% of the price of a new stadium. I’d hate to work that out in ‘premium seats’.

Again, IF it comes to it would we see this mass exodus of supporters ? No, in a word. There’d be a whole heap of frustration (and that’s me being polite). There’d be a lot of upset kids, devastated at the prospect of losing their hero. But we’ll all still come back.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to telling a four year old that Jota has joined the naughty team. Let alone if Harlee also goes. Along with Sam Saunders, the three of them have been the building blocks of his footballing education. And that’s before we even get to personal feelings about his impact and place on both the team and in our hearts. Truly, he is that unique player who seems to be universally loved.

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This could be a tricky conversation on Friday….

This would be the Championship equivalent of Michael Laudrup or Luis Figo making the switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Although at our level it would probably be less a pig’s head and more a Chomp bar that was flung onto the pitch by an irate supporter.

It would be frustration compounded by us not being back at Griffin Park until September 16th. Prior to that, away games at Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday will see the board sheltered up in the bosom of the gods. Shielded from the fans. Those famous old stadia being unlike Griffin Park where nothing more than a flimsy bit of chicken wire separates our masters from the Season Ticket holders threatening to walk. Little more than 10 yards separates them from the heart of the on pitch action.

Equally, and being cold, I can imagine the pragmatic view of the board is that he is one more player in a long line of talent we’ve ultimately profited from. If he has decided his future is elsewhere then let him go. Let him go. If we can cash in on a player who wants to leave then why cut off our noses? He could sign a one year extension today if he wanted. He could help us continue that push upwards and then leave in the summer. But that’s not how football works.

The club will look at the player’s desire. They will look at the money. They will look at alternatives on the right in Josh Clarke, Flo Jo and the possible return of Alan Judge. They will look at the fact that this is out of their hands and how do we make the best of a situation?

I’m desperate for him to stay. Desperate. I’d love the above to be scaremongering nonsense. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands if so. However, I’m also realistic and now fear the worst. Now fear that the last minute goal, all those last minute goals, Mark Burridge losing it at Blackburn and Jake Bidwell being made a mockery of will be consigned to the history books.

I’ll be devastated if it came to Jota swapping Griffin Park for the Cottage. But I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that specific move won’t happen.

Anything else though, who knows? Thursday night can’t come come soon enough. Please, put us out of our misery one way or another.

Jota Fulham last minute

This.

Nick Bruzon

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From Manchester City fan to Brentford legend

3 Mar

Money can’t necessarily buy you success. Of course, at Brentford having the sort of finances available to the likes of the teams at the top end of the Premier League is just a pipe dream. Yet it made last night’s results all the more interesting as this most captivating of top flight seasons continued. Despite their mega-millions, Manchester City (at mid-table Liverpool) and Arsenal (hosting relegation candidates Swansea) both lost against opposition they’d have been expected, on paper, to breeze past.

The flip side to this is that when you are operating on a reduced budget, unearthing that game changing player is a truly joyful experience. And this is where Brentford come into the equation. The previous column looked at, amongst other things, the FourFourTwo magazine survey on your club’s ‘cult hero’ over the top four divisions.

It is genuinely a fascinating read (my own contribution aside) with the results, being published on-line now showing clubs A-M. Starting with Accrington Stanley, it has so far gone through Brentford, along with the aforementioned Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to the point they had, at the time of writing, got as far as Morecambe.

So few of these players are the big money signings making the headlines today but each have their special place amongst the fans. And the reason for mentioing this again was, specifically, the chance to talk a bit more about Brentford. Or, rather, our own nominee – Gary Blissett.

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All time cult hero, Gary Blissett

Given the constraints of the Four FourTwo site, somebody like Bliss (not to mention those who ran him close when the question was put out there on Facebook last month) deserved more than the 100-150 words available. So here is the full, unexpurgated version.

Gary Blissett – cult hero

Where do you start when looking for a cult hero? For a team like Brentford, where the trophy cabinet is more an aspiration than anything else, most people outside of TW8 probably know us for the sort of thing that would make TV’s “What happened Next…?” rather than the record books.

Goalkeeper Chic Brodie having his career ended by a runaway dog. Millwall fans throwing a hand grenade onto the pitch (November 1965, for the record). The failed takeover bid by QPR that would have seen Brentford cease to exist and our bitterest rivals move into Griffin Park. Eight play-off defeats out of eight (the least successful of all English teams when reaching football’s ‘final four’).

Then, of course, there was ‘that penalty’ in the final minute of the final game of 2012/13. A winner takes all encounter with promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Only one team could make it to the Championship and, with the scores locked at 0-0, the Bees were awarded a 90th minute spot kick. The subsequent tussle for the ball involving club captain Kevin O’Connor (approaching his 500th game), and Marcello Trotta (on loan from Fulham, of all places) is one as familiar as the Italian’s subsequent effort thudding off the crossbar and, with Bees players prostrate on the ground in despair, our opponents going down the other end where they scored to secure promotion and the title.

That’s how we do things at Griffin Park. Glorious failure being as familiar a taste as the pre-match hot dog. Yet when we do win things, it makes them all the sweeter. Every now and again it happens. And even when we don’t, we still have a lot of fun along the way. Thanks, largely, to those figures you’d label as Cult Heroes.

Big John O’Mara who, in his first season, scored 25 goals in 40 games. Centre back Peter Gelson, who made 471 appearances in a Griffin Park career that stretched from 1960 to 1975. The legendary Jim Towers and George Francis aka The Terrible Twins. Playing together for most of the 1950s, they still remain (respectively) the club’s first and second highest all time goal scorers.

Hard as nails players such as Terry Hurlock, Terry Evans and Martin Grainger.

Long serving players Jamie Bates and Kevin O’Connor.

The skilful wing wizards like Andy Sinton and Neil Smillie.

Those who just seemed to exude personality and had the crowd eating out of their hand – Allan Cockram, Lloyd Owusu and Marcus Gayle (just don’t sing that song near your granny).

Modern day heroes including Jota – the last minute goal being his own personal calling card. Toumani Diagouraga – “Toumani scores, we’re on the pitch” went the Ealing Road. He’d last done it in March 2013 and we had to sit through another 111 games without him troubling the scorers before he was sold to Leeds at the end of January. Less than 40 minutes into his full debut….

Or how about Sam Saunders? The perma-tanned wing wizard (and former tube worker) so beloved of fans that most would allow him to ‘have relations’ with their wives, if the terrace chant is to be believed.

But when it comes down to it, there can be only one winner. The moustachioed legend that is Gary Blissett. aka ‘Bliss’.

79 goals from 223 league appearances (105 from 291 total) in a 6 year career from 1987-1993 don’t even tell half the story. His brace against boyhood heroes Manchester City in the 1988-89 FA Cup fourth round sent Griffin Park into meltdown as the Bees earned a 3-1 passage into the fifth round. There, Bliss repeated the feat as his late pair at Blackburn Rovers helped Brentford to a deserved 2-0 win. Sadly it wasn’t to be in an Anfield quarter final as the Bees bowed out despite giving all-conquering Liverpool (kids, ask your dads) an almighty scare.

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Bliss does the business against his beloved Manchester City

His defining goal was probably the final game of the 91/92 season. With the Bees having won the previous five on the spin, including a 4-0 demolition of Fulham, we travelled to Peterborough knowing a win and some good fortune could make the impossible, possible.

Bliss was the man who popped up with a first half header as we then sat through an awful lot of ‘squeaky bum time’ for a famous 1-0 win. With other results going our way, including a shock defeat for a Birmingham City side that Saint & Greavsie had earlier congratulated on TV for winning the League, we snuck up the blind side and became Champions. Sometimes, it happens.

Gary was an ever present the following season as, despite the sale of strike partner Dean Holdsworth, his goals almost kept us in English football’s second tier.

But there was more to Gary than short shorts, a luxuriant ‘tache and goals, goals, goals.

A wannabe goalkeeper, he was the man who donned the gloves during a Championship game with Southend United after injury, and no spare on the bench, meant we got to enjoy that wonderful moment where an outfield player goes between the posts. Bliss promptly ignored every piece of advice being shouted to him by youth ‘keeper Ashley Bayes and kept a clean sheet.

But it was his red card at Craven Cottage after what we will politely call a ‘coming together’ with Fulham ‘keeper Jim Stannard that is a moment as popular with Bees’ fans as that goal at Peterborough. Bliss left the field to a standing ovation in a game that showed us the West London derby meant as much to the players as the supporters.

All the money in the bank can’t buy a player like Bliss. The £60,000 we paid Crewe back in 1987, even now, still seems like the bargain of the century.

Like Marcus Gayle and Allan Cockram, Bliss still visits Griffin Park. Catching up with him briefly in the week, he told me, “ I follow every game and after my beloved City Brentford are of course the team I want to see succeed more than any other team or club in the world.

I am sure MB will have Plan B, C, D and more and will one day be playing at The Ethiad IN THE LEAGUE

For those amongst us feeling slightly down about things on the pitch this year, these are surely words to put your trust in. If a demi-God such as Bliss believes, then that’s all the inspiration we need .

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Gary still features in the Junior Bees Top Trumps (style game)

Nick Bruzon

Putting the ‘beautiful’ back into our game. THIS is why I love my club

23 Dec

What can you say? Brentford have done it again. With most fans looking forward to the Boxing Day clash with Brighton, Tuesday night saw the focus on our Junior Bees as Griffin Park opened its gates for their now annual ‘Meet the players Christmas party.’ And, as ever, Brentford showed just what a great family club we are.

The squad was out in force signing ‘player cards’, posing for photographs and taking part in all manner of football related activities. Also present were Buzz and Buzzette, along with chairman Cliff Crown.

But it was the attitude that really impressed me. To a man, they were nothing but absolutely welcoming to our young fans (along with mums and dads) when, being honest, they may well have preferred to be sat indoors in front of Holby City on what was a wet and windy evening.

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A very happy two year old

To put on an event of this nature so close to Christmas shows, yet again, what a fantastic family environment we have at Griffin Park. The players and all others involved in the set up were an absolute credit to the club.

It’s very easy to criticise and, at times this season, I have done. However, even the most Scrooge-like amongst us could only have been impressed by what happened last night. For a team knocking on the door of the Premier League (and with the Bees just two points outside the play-off zone, we all know how significant a win over Brighton at the weekend could be), it was so refreshing to see how down to earth Brentford remain.

The sport has, rightly at times, come into much criticism for having a reputation of avaricious greed whilst Messrs Platini and Blatter are hardly portraying the beautiful game in a beautiful light at present. Yet what happened at Griffin Park was a wonderful check to remind us what is at the heart of football.

Great job all round – and THANK YOU. If nothing else, I’ve now got a son who worships Buzzette. Not bad compared to this time last year.

HB and Buzzette xmas 2014 2015

Left – December 2014. Right – December 2015

The other news of note was the fantastic ‘wall of fame’ that has sprung up behind the Braemar Road stand. I know Bournemouth did something similar a few seasons back and I’d always thought this might be a nice touch if we could make our own attempt.

Well, we have, and I have to say it looks absolutely stunning. Do get along early on Saturday for a look. Honouring players from Jimmy Jay via the likes of Ken Coote, Jim Towers and George Francis it takes us on a trip through the annals of club history, right up to Kevin O’Connor.

A stunning piece of artwork and one which has the memories flooding back. If only for Gary Blissett and his short shorts.

Will any of today’s players join that illustrious list? On Saturday, we’ll take another step on the journey to finding out.

Wall of fame

Some of the more recent entries on the ‘wall of fame’

Nick Bruzon

 

A letter to Father Christmas. And kitman Bob

3 Dec

And relax. After a frenetic period of speculation, match action and the eventual appointment of Dean Smith as the new Brentford Head Coach, supporters can finally catch their breath. Fans tuning in to last night’s Southampton – Liverpool Capital One Cup action were reminded of a Griffin Park great whilst those amongst us with a kit obsession have a tough choice to make later today.

But I’m going to start, briefly, at St. Marys – simply because of the one sided scoreline that saw Liverpool run out with an astounding 1-6 victory. Even more so given the speed with which Southampton opened proceedings – Sadio Mane grabbing the opening goal with less than 40 seconds on the clock to give the home side an early lead.

For me this was significant for several reasons – not least the ongoing quest for brackets. Liverpool grabbing their sixth in the 86th minute left us with that delicious possibility of the videprinter ticking over to 7(seven). Sadly, it wasn’t to be but that period is a moment that always adds an extra frisson of excitement to any game for neutrals (or is that just me?).

For us Bees, there was additional significance in this being The Saints heaviest home defeat since going down 6-0 to Brentford back in March 1959. That, a game where the legendary Jim Towers did his very best to single-handedly inflict brackets as he bagged four goals.

His reward – having to walk home, as Jim himself explained in a ‘Where Are They Now’ interview a few years ago “By the time we got back to Brentford all the buses had finished and I didn’t have a car in those days. I had to make my own way home after scoring four goals. I don’t think Jermaine Defoe had to do that!”

Say what you want about Liverpool, but they looked good doing it last night. The black ‘third’ shirt is another trait they share with Brentford as the Bolton game saw our equivalent get another airing on Monday. I have to be honest that my own initial enthusiasm for our blue ‘away’ kit has worn off a tad but this new one is a stunner.

There’s none of the superfluous trim that has blighted previous efforts – specifically our last attempt back in 2009-10 where we had more additional gold than Mr. T.

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Pity the fool who wears this one

This is just simple black and white with a wonderful hint of silver. And I want one. Badly. Indeed, from talking to Brentford fans it seems I’m not alone in this respect and so can only imagine a series of hastily scribbled notes are being written to Father Christmas.

But equally, much though we love it, fans are also aware that this shirt is not on general sale. The only way to get one as things stand (aside from being Sam Saunders) is via the charity auctions in aid of the Royal British Legion which end today.

This really is a wonderful way to raise money for a great cause although, regrettably, the current prices are probably a leap too far for yours truly. Nice though these are, Mrs. Bruzon would probably have my guts if I came home for Christmas with Sam’s match worn shirt for me and no budget left for anything beyond some magic beans for her.

Given the chances of getting one through general release are as likely as seeing a bracketing, perhaps the marketing chaps or Kitman Bob might have next season’s ‘away’ shirt under their noses without even realising it.

I can’t wait….

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The ‘3rd’ kit is proving very popular amongst fans I’ve spoken to

Nick Bruzon

Almost 50 years on, old rivalries are about to reignite

29 Oct

This time tomorrow, Brentford fans will be preparing for our first West London derby of the season as QPR visit Griffin Park. And if it’s anywhere near as exciting as last season’s, we could be in for a treat. Two wins and six points against Fulham, including the 4-1 thrashing administered at Craven Cottage, have only served to whet the appetite for another game against local rivals.

4-1, and four of the best goals you'll ever see

4-1, and four of the best goals you’ll ever see

The Fulham games were, of course, incredible. But deep down many Brentford fans were also hoping for the chance to test ourselves against QPR. Geographically closer (there’s 4.4 miles between our grounds, compared to the 5.4 that separate Fulham and Brentford) they are seen as our rivals for that reason alone.

Then there’s Martin Rowlands and his infamous ‘badge kissing’ in front of Bees fans when the (then) club hero swapped Griffin Park for Loftus Road after five seasons. I guess some people have to get their kisses where they can although it is something we’ve never forgotten, right up to his recent appearances for Leyton Orient.

However, for the older generation of Bees fans, there is much more historical significance. The 1961 sale of goal machines Jim Towers and George Francis, who had managed just shy of 300 between them, hardly helped matters. Interviewing Jim a few years ago, he admitted, “I didn’t particularly want to go to QPR. Why he (Malky McDonald sold me and George, I don’t know.”

Club legend, Jim Towers

Club legend, Jim Towers

But it was the near takeover in 1967 that, even today, sees the main reason for that fierce rivalry – at least, from our perspective. Had it gone ahead, QPR would have sold Loftus Road to the council, bought Griffin Park (for a profit), moved in and Brentford Football club would no longer have existed. But for a press leak, the Bees fans springing into action and an emergency loan – things could have been very much different today.

I can’t imagine, as a supporter, how that must have felt. Of course, we’ve had our scrapes with that sort of trouble in recent times. The disaster of the David Webb era. Narrowly avoiding bankruptcy and financial collapse after Ron Noades’ stint as owner. Then the efforts of supporters’ trust Bees United that saw the fans pull the club back from the brink and eventually become majority shareholders in Brentford FC before Matthew Benham eventually rode on to the scene.

But reading about the proposed ‘takeover’, and I am sure there will be a lot more eloquent talk about it over the next day or so, things really were that close to many us supporting another team altogether.

Supporters rally round in 1967

Supporters rally round in 1967

Let’s be honest, we’ve had some cracking games against Fulham in recent times. The 1-0 at the Cottage followed by a pre-Peterborough 4-0 humping when we won the old third division title. Stuart Dallas doing his thing away from home after Jota had wrapped up the points at the death in the home game last time out.

Those against QPR have been much more turgid. We’ve crossed paths six times from 2001 – 2004 and not since. Those six games have produced a mere eight goals, four draws and two defeats for the Bees. It has always been a horrible match for the neutral and, at times, a painful one – Mark McCammon blazing over from point blank range, anyone?

Yet, equally, it has always been a game with a unique atmosphere.

As Jim Towers himself went on to say when asked what was THE game? “QPR. For me, and George, it was more than a local derby. We WANTED to win and to beat them more than anyone. Over the years, I don’t think QPR came off too well and perhaps that’s why they took a liking to us and bought us. We had a very good record against them. It was the special one.”

Who am I to argue?

Nick Bruzon

George Francis – Brentford legend

23 Oct

Brentford FC have announced the incredibly sad news that George Francis passed away yesterday, aged 80. George is, of course, the second highest goalscorer in the club’s history – just behind his strike partner Jim Towers – and, like his fellow ‘terrible twin’, the epitome of a Brentford legend

I never had the privilege of seeing George, who was this year inducted into the club’s ‘hall of fame’, play for the Bees and so would struggle to pay adequate tribute. However, I was fortunate enough to interview Jim Towers back in December 2009 for a piece which, inevitably, focussed heavily on the relationship with George and their playing days.

The article is reproduced below – as we pay tribute to a man who was a hero to so many Brentford fans, through the words of his team-mate and friend.

Where Are They Now – Jim Towers

The careers of Jim Towers and George Francis, Griffin Park’s own “Terrible Twins” are hard to separate. From their time playing against each other for rival Saturday teams though National Service together and then part of the same Brentford team for most of the 1950’s until a controversial sale to Queens Park Rangers, they truly are legends. With 163 and 136 goals respectively, Jim Towers still hold the all time Brentford goalscorer’s record!

It speaks volumes for their pairing and the team of the time that that they were able to accomplish this simultaneously as, fifty years later, Francis is still our second place all time scorer. A feat made all the more incredible when you consider some of the goalscorers that have followed them through the years and had the chance to make this record their own – Sweetzer, McCulloch, Holdsworth, Forster, Blissett and Owusu to name but a few.

“Where are they now” was fortunate enough to met up with Jim recently to find out how he got there, his opinions on the game today, his memories of the time and that move to Loftus Road.

In 1947 Brentford had been a top-flight team. Seven years later and they were back in Division Three, with a team heavily dependent on youth policy. However, this focus on youth, combined with the club’s slump in form, gave Jim Towers his opportunity.

“They had a fellow who ran Brentford juniors called Alf Bew. He didn’t really know a lot about football but what he used to do, and there were quite a few Brentford players in this area, was sign everybody on amateur forms. Brentford had a few schoolboy internationals but anybody in the area he’d sign!

I came from Shepherds Bush but when I turned professional there were quite a few schoolboy internationals who played for the first team but didn’t really go on. Alan Bassam, Roy Philpott. All schoolboy internationals in this area but that was Alf’s success. He just signed everybody on then other people used to look at them. It was a joke. You kept everybody and if somebody got injured, you got a chance.

I wasn’t really in the limelight though. I played for a boy’s club in Shepherd’s Bush. We were drawn against Brentford in a little cup match at Boston Manor and that’s how it came between me and Alf. We were a good team and beat Brentford juniors so he asked me if I would like to sign for Brentford Juniors. They had a couple of player’s short; I played and scored about four goals against somebody. So then I was part of Brentford juniors.”

From playing with the juniors, Jim’s next move was one which took him by surprise, especially as he was about head off to Germany with the British Army.

“Coming up eighteen years old, nobody at that age played although these days you’re in the first team. I was coming up to that age and going into National Service, which you had to do. Then they asked me if I’d like to turn professional!

It was out of the blue because I didn’t think I was any better than any of the others and so I signed professional around June and then went into the army on July the 4th. The only contact I then had with Brentford was minimal because I was in Germany all the time.

At that time there was a fellow called Jackie Gibbons here, who was a good player, and he was manager of Brentford. He was an amateur player but he was manager when I signed. When I came out of the army, Tommy Lawton had taken over so it was a matter of who knew me? Nobody knew anyone. Georgie Francis, my pal, had the same thing. He was stationed with me but got demobbed about seven months after so that’s how it went. You just came along and were lucky if you got twelfth man for the reserves in those days. Other than that, you just used to go and watch another match.”

Having come out of the army, although signed to the club it wasn’t a case of walking straight into the team.

Jim continues, “ It took a year and as I said, when I came out the army in 53, it was mid-season. Then you had that year where, at the end, I could have been let go. There were lots of players not being kept and in those days you used to get a letter saying you are or aren’t being retained. That’s how it was.

Luckily, I’d played a couple of games but it seemed fast, ever so fast. I was playing for the British army and playing not bad football but this seemed ever so fast and I thought I’d never make a living at it. Then, after I trained and started scoring a lot of goals for the reserves, they retained me. Then they took a lot of older players, such as Georgie Stobart. They didn’t do all that well so they started putting in the Brentford youth like Dennis Heath, myself, Georgie Bristow – all those type of players. That’s how it kicked off. I started scoring a few goals and luckily for me it just went on and on.”

To say it went on and on is putting things mildly. Whilst Jim was on the books for ten years from 51-61, his goals came in an even shorter period if you consider he only started playing in 1954.

“I was what they a call a fixture, I was always in the team. At the same time, if you look at the Guinness book of records or any other book, you’ll find that people who scored a lot of goals were at the club a long while. In my best year I got 37. Now, if somebody got 37 they’d be sold. No question. So, it’s nice to have the record but it’s a little bit artificial because players don’t stay that long. To score what I did now, you’d have to be at a club a fair while and you’re just not. Score twenty goals one year and you’re gone.

Look at all the records of clubs in the third division South and there were three players playing for England in that league. John Atyeo, who played for Bristol City. Then you had Matthews playing for Coventry. They were actually in the England line up and you couldn’t imagine that now.”

There must have been more to it than just being a regular in the team. What did Jim put his goalscoring feats down to?

“I had two good feet. Everybody thought I was left footed but actually I was right footed. That’s how good it was. If I had a penalty I’d take it with the right foot but the left foot, it didn’t make a difference. Once the ball was moving a bit, it made no difference. In actual fact, that’s what gives you the goal because you get that fraction of a second where somebody else tries to get it over and its gone. Bang. You get the goal.

Even Shearer was right footed although his left was good, but when you don’t mind what foot it comes on then it gives you the fraction of a second and that makes a big difference. ”

Whilst recognising his own skills, Jim is fair enough to admit where he may have been slightly weaker.

“I wasn’t all that good with my head, to tell you the truth. Infact, I used to take the corners sometimes although did score some with my head. If it was on the right, Dennis Heath would take them but if it was on the left, George McCloud had trouble hitting the corner over.”

It wasn’t just the ability to hit a ball with either foot but the ability to hit it with power, which was also key to Jim’s prowess in front of goal. I had read that at one point he actually knocked a spectator out. Is this true?

“Probably! The funny thing about it, and I can always see the funny side, was that when you used to come out on to the field, and they don’t do it now because they do all the run ups, everybody used to like a kick of the ball, even the defenders and everybody used to like a shot at the goal before the match started. There were often people not interested because the match hadn’t started and it was like a minefield by that goal.”

The type of ball probably accounted for a few casualties, as he continues.

“ The ball was a lot heavier! The ball’s changed. By the time I got in you had the white ball for floodlit matches and that was alright. The lace had gone. You’ve got to go back to 52-/53 for all that so I missed the laceup ball. It was a bit before I got in the first team.

It’s not just the ball that was different but the pitches, too. The playing surfaces now are beautiful compared to when I played and that must make a difference. I’ve walked on pitches that were all sand, like a bog. That makes a big difference.”

We’ve briefly mentioned his partnership with George Francis and I wonder whether this inspired him towards the amount of goals he scored. Was there any rivalry between the pair of them as they raced into the record books?

“There was no rivalry. It didn’t really matter. No disrespect to the game, he might have scored 35 in one year and me 30. The next I’d get more. It didn’t really matter.”

Infact, they were very good friends, having met years earlier and perhaps this helped forge that bond on and off the pitch.

“George, I knew from way back, long before the juniors. We used to play for the cinema teams. They used to have kids going along on Saturday mornings. George played for one and I played for another. It all seems like another world but that’s how I knew George. I went out with his sister for quite a while but nothing came of it. I knew his family well. George was Brentford through and through. He lived by Acton Town so was local whereas I was the other way.”

One theme that runs throughout my conversation with Jim is his continued interest in the modern game, especially when comparing how things were fifty years earlier for him and George.

“Now football’s always in the papers, on the telly. You think that these days, my name would be up on that Sky every week   – Jim Towers scored for Brentford. George Francis scores for Brentford.

Now your name comes up and you’ve never heard of them, other than in the Premier Division. Its high profile. The fellow giving the commentary knows everything about them – that’s his tenth goal of the season etc Some little Carlisle fellows got his tenth goal of the season. Back then, nobody even knew where Carlisle was ! That’s how it is nowadays.

It’s so high profile these days. If you look at Defoe who scored those five goals for Spurs against Wigan the other week…. I scored four goals against Southampton and I had to almost walk home after the match because by the time we got back to Brentford all the buses had finished and I didn’t have a car in those days.

I had to make my own way home after scoring four goals. I don’t think Defoe had to do that!!!

That’s exactly how it happened. It was an evening kick off and by the time you got back from Southampton the buses had stopped. How the game’s changed.

He got five goals out of nine; I got four from six but I had to walk home from Brentford to Shepherd’s Bush. It’s true. That’s what happened.”

Aside from transport issues, Jim also comments on another key differ between the way the game was played in his day and in current times.

“Players drink a lot now during the game which was unheard of when I was playing. It was amazing when you think about it. You used to go all the way up North and you wouldn’t have a drink before you played. You didn’t get one in the dressing room. A cup of tea maybe, afterwards. Now, there’s water being thrown at them at all directions. Even the subs drinking.

When I played we were running on empty all the time. You never had a drink. You’d go into the dressing room with no facilities. Maybe a pot of tea for half time and lemonade for afterwards. On hot days, which there were, nobody knew; you just got on with it. It was a case of, “ don’t drink a lot of water, you’ve got to carry it around”. Now you need it all the time. We were handicapped for a start by the way the game’s changed. We would have obviously been better because there were certain times when you were playing and you couldn’t pick your legs up. For some reason it wasn’t going right or whatever. That was probably what it was. Exhaustion. Nobody had said you need a drink of water. It was unheard of, you just didn’t know.”

Tower and Francis managed just short of 300 goals between them for Brentford, including 61 in 58-59 which saw Jim top scoring on 37. As such, it seems incredible now but the start of the 1961 season saw the club choosing to sell the pair of them to arch rivals Queen Park Rangers. To this day, Jim is still not sure why.

“ I didn’t particularly want to go to QPR. Why he sold me and George, I don’t know. They might have had a money problem but it wasn’t massive money we went for. About ten thousand in the end (the record books, officially, say eight) but it wasn’t big money so why they needed that I don’t know?

It was a certainty they’d get relegated the following year. Which is exactly what happened. After we went they were taking people on free transfers. My mate Kenny Coote, the club captain, still used to come and have a drink with me Sunday nights. Even he said, we’re a certainty to go down and that’s what happened.

There was no reason to go and now I‘m not sure why I didn’t make a stand.

I can’t think. George was the same. I can understand him selling me or I can understand selling George. I can’t understand him selling both of us at the same time, it was ridiculous.”

The passion with which Jim talks about the Brentford games against QPR, prior to his enforced move across West London, make the transfer sound even more ridiculous than he puts it!

“QPR. For me, and George, it was more than a local derby. We WANTED to win and to beat them more than anyone. Over the years, I don’t think QPR came off too well and perhaps that’s why they took a liking to us and bought us. We had a very good record against them. It was the special one.

More special to me and George than Ken, for example, who used to live over this way (Jim is still a Hounslow man). For us though, George was Acton and I used to actually walk from my house to QPR when we played there.

I can never remember QPR winning at Brentford. I think we had a 100% record against them here over eight or nine years. ”

Outside of the derby matches, Jim cites two particular games as real stand out moments. The more obvious one is that which resulted in his long walk home that one night.

“The standout game according to everybody is when I scored the four goals against Southampton. For me, it became more important afterwards. At the time it didn’t seem so important but as your career finishes, people say, “Oh, you scored four goals against Southampton” To get four away! Probably, if you look at the Southampton records there wouldn’t be many people who had done it against them.”

The other was actually at a rival of ours, about whom he explains… ,

“I had had a trial for Fulham but it turned out that I went to Brentford.

Many years later, which gave me a lot of pleasure, I went back to Fulham and played in an all-star match. A testimonial for a couple of players I watched – Arthur Stevens and Joe Bacuzzi. They were great players for Fulham and I went back and played in the all-star game with Billy Wright, Jones who used to play outside-left for Tottenham and all that crowd. All internationals. That was nice for me to have the chance again, after not getting in, to go back and play in that game.”

After leaving football, Jim went to work for British Airways where he stayed for twenty-five years. “ It was good. When footballers finished you didn’t have any money, not like now. Working there helped because you got a pension to keep you rolling over. Only through British Airways though. Most people who packed up football in those days didn’t have anything. Pack up and the next day you’re down the job centre. It happens.”

I do wonder if a man of his talents ever considered staying on in the game?

“I had a little gap between the football and going to the Airport as I played in the Southern League for a while. In those days, everybody used to pack up and go in the Southern League.”

However, in regards to working in the game, Jim is clear.

“Not really, because there was no money. It’s nice if you do well but there’s a lot of people just at the side of the road. I don’t think I’d have liked to go cap in hand. At least at BA you had a job. If you were coaching, unless you were the manager, once he got the sack you’d get it with him. There were lots who got the sack and you never heard of them again. And there was no big money in it ”

Outside of work, now that Jim is retired does he still watch Brentford much?

“Not very often. I go occasionally. I went last year and also when Brentford have played QPR but I don’t often go. Unless you go regularly you don’t get a feel of the players so you’re just watching a group of people. You’ve got to get to know them, to get the feel of the players. I could tell you more about Tottenham or Arsenal now because I watch it on Sky.

When I played, everyone knew one another. The team didn’t change and the teams you played would come back two years later and roughly have the same team. Nobody moved because if you got retained, you stayed. There was no point. I has the chance to go to Northern clubs and was asked if I’d be interested – Preston, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday – but I thought what would I want to go up there for? I was a single fellow and didn’t get married until quite late. I went to QPR and it was no big deal but going all the way to Sheffield, finding somewhere to live was different. Well, I’ve always been from this area and never ventured too far.”

It seems surprising, although perhaps more symptomatic of the way football has changed, that for all his goal scoring heroics Jim only has one hat-trick ball in his collection. Or should I say, had….

No. In those days you didn’t get them. I’ve only ever had one football from when I scored a hat-trick for Millwall, after I’d left QPR. They just didn’t give them out in those days. I never got a ball from Brentford.

I did have a ball from Millwall but what happened was, when I went to Gravesend they were always short of everything. Didn’t even have a ball. In those days Brentford were short, imagine what Gravesend were like!!

I said to (the then manager) Walter Rickett, I’ll fetch my ball. I let them play with it, then left it down there. Once you’d played with it, that was it. They weren’t like they are now and it had got a little bit torn so I said to keep it.

Then, the hat-trick ball was like a lucky charm but now, they’re all over the place. You don’t get the ball you scored the hat-trick with because they’re being thrown on from all over the place. Defoe probably wouldn’t know which ball he actually scored those five with – probably a different ball for each – so it would be a miracle if he got the same one afterwards. “

Meeting Jim has been a real eye-opener in the difference between the way football was played then and now. More than that, it has been a pleasure to meet a man of his reputation and hear him talk so modestly about his achievements. This is perhaps best summed up by Jim’s own appraisal of his time at Brentford.

“Anybody watching me when I was 20 and they were 30 is probably long gone now!

Time makes players better than they were. Everybody’s a great player when they’ve finished but when they’re playing “you’re useless”. Every player that’s talked about, the time they played is actually better remembered than they actually were.”